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Next week is a make or break week for Dominique de Villepin, whose controversial youth unemployment law has led to protests in Paris and elsewhere. While the aristocratic, poetry writing politician says he might compromise slightly over plans to end the jobs for life culture in his country, he won't back down.
Trade unions are calling his bluff and plan a day of action next Tuesday. But has he alienated voters and his own supporters too much?
The opponents of the First Job Contract CPEwhose five previous protests mobilised millions across the country, vowed to keep up their guard until new measures to replace the "easy hire, easy fire" law for young workers have been passed. The marches were due to start in the early afternoon. Unions refrained from calling for fresh strikes and some universities, including the protest centre at Rennes in western France, voted to reopen classes with Easter holidays and spring examinations fast approaching.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who emerged strengthened after his rival Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was forced to withdraw the law, argued that the government's flip-flop did not mean Paris could not pass needed but unpopular changes.
They found these proposals unfair. But Sarkozy admitted there was little leeway for change in the twilight of Jacques Chirac's year presidency: The business daily La Tribune disagreed, saying that the CPE and Villepin's pride were not the only victims of the unrest. And nothing says it will be easier after that. Another business daily, Les Echos, said: After so many years of failure on the jobs front, they're not far from collectively losing all of their credit.
This evening forecasts by four pollsters showed Sarkozy, 52, a hardline former interior minister, won around 53 percent of the vote in the second-round ballot and will succeed fellow conservative Jacques Chirac, who was president for 12 years. France's state-owned rail operator reported widespread sabotage on the country's high-speed TGV rail network as talks opened Wednesday aimed at ending a crippling eight-day transport strike.
As the national stoppage dragged into its eighth day, unions, management and government representatives sat down to thrash out a deal over President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposals for overhauling pensions. But just hours before the talks began, state-owned rail operator SNCF revealed what it described as a "concerted campaign of sabotage" on the TGV network aimed at stopping services resuming.
In a statement, SNCF listed several acts of arson, options trading entry signals review francois fillon a "very large" blaze on the Atlantic branch that damaged a large section of the signal network. Union leaders were quick to condemn the incidents, with Didier Le Reste of the General Labour Confederation CGT denouncing what he called "indescribable acts of cowardice".
On Tuesday a defiant Options trading entry signals review francois fillon vowed to stand by his economic reforms and urged strikers to return to work. What needs to be done will be done. What needs to be accomplished will be accomplished. The French elected me to do it, and I will not betray them.
On Tuesday, the transport workers were joined by hundreds of thousands of striking teachers, nurses, tax officials and other state employees demanding pay rises and an end to job cuts. Mass rallies against the government were held in cities nationwide, with 30, marching with banners across central Paris. Francois Chereque, the leader of a union that favours a compromise, had to leave the Paris demonstration in haste after being booed.
Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand said he was hopeful the talks would herald the end of the strike. Our decision rests with them," he said. Ministers have said they will not yield on the core of the reform which is to increase contribution periods for thebeneficiaries of "special" pensions systems so that they are in line with the rest of the population. Currently they retire two and a half years earlier.
The government has suggested salary rises and top-up pension schemes could sweeten the pill, and SNCF management has said a 90 million euro a year financial package is available if the strikers return to work. The rail strike is costing up to million euros million dollars a day, the government says. The information contained in the AFP News report options trading entry signals review francois fillon not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.
The two leaders are now at Arsenal's football stadium for talks on issues including nuclear power, Afghanistan and global finance. They will agree joint measures against illegal immigration - but Mr Sarkozy wants an EU-wide policy. The two women will dine with other wives of senior politicians at Lancaster House, in aid of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood. They were due to be greeted by members of Arsenal's youth team who will greet the French President in his native tongue. It is the first state visit by French President for 12 years - but many of the headlines in British newspapers have been grabbed by Ms Bruni.
The supermodel-turned-singer was the centre of attention at a state banquet at Windsor Castle on Wednesday evening, where she chatted with members of the Royal Family. Crowds lined the barriers to catch a glimpse of Ms Bruni, who was wearing a bright purple coat, over a grey trouser suit, and flat black pumps. The couple viewed a plaque paying tribute to General de Gaulle's appeal to the French people to fight against the Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
In their bilateral talks, Mr Brown and Mr Sarkozy will discuss further measures to tackle illegal immigration including enhanced borders guards at Calais and joint asylum expulsion flights. They are also expected to speak about measures to tackle global financial instability and announce new co-operation on nuclear energy.
During an impassioned speech in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday, Mr Sarkozy hailed the historic friendship between Britain and France.
Looking to the future, he said that instead of the famed "Entente Cordiale", there should be an "Entente Amicale", with France and the UK working together on energy, immigration, security and defence. He also said more "British dynamism" was needed to reform the European Union, hinting that France might be open to changing the Common Agricultural Policy.
He hailed the "exemplary" bilateral efforts to tackle illegal immigration but repeated his call for a common EU immigration "pact" - likely to be a key theme of France's EU Presidency in July. Mr Sarkozy also proposed increasing his country's commitment in Afghanistan at a Nato summit in Bucharest next week. French officials said Monday that they would use the presidency of the European Union to try to win over discontented voters in Europe by getting "back to basics," like cushioning the impact of soaring food and fuel bills and protecting voters from globalization.
On the eve of the start of its six-month presidency, the officials made it clear that they would seek to reverse the recent no vote by Ireland in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty to reorganize the EU and would press the Czech Republic to ratify the treaty. Options trading entry signals review francois fillon on French television, Sarkozy attacked proposals in the trade negotiations that he said would reduce European farm production by one-fifth and cut agricultural exports by 10 percent.
Sarkozy also highlighted the problems caused for exporters by the options trading entry signals review francois fillon euro exchange rate with the dollar and said the European Central Bank should take account of economic growth, as well as its obligation to control inflation. And in a surprisingly frank admission, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the no vote in Ireland illustrated how the EU had alienated its citizens by conducting politics in a manner they find incomprehensible.
As for the jargon options trading entry signals review francois fillon which business in Brussels is conducted, "no one understands - including me," said Kouchner, adding that it was time to "get back to basics. The comments Monday to journalists in Paris illustrate how the government there has interpreted the Irish vote as a vindication of efforts it was already promoting to protect Europeans from the impact of globalization.
That effort threatens to crystallize the debate within the EU between France on the one hand and more economically liberal nations like Britain. France opposes moves, promoted by Britain, to scale back the Common Agricultural Policy, which consumes more than 40 percent of the EU's budget, and Paris plans a review options trading entry signals review francois fillon "health check" of farm spending before the end of the year. President Nicolas Sarkozy made clear last month his discontent with the options trading entry signals review francois fillon that the EU's trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, has conducted the Doha Development Round of global trade talks.
Trade ministers are to meet later this month in Geneva, and one senior French official said Monday that Europe had made sacrifices in agricultural policy but had received nothing in return in market access for industrial goods or services. Kouchner put forward no concrete plans to simplify the way the EU works, but he suggested that French proposals to reduce the value-added tax on fuel could appeal to voters who "see Europe more as a threat than a protection.
Though the European Commission has promised to study the French ideas, along with others including an Italian proposal for a new tax on oil companies, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is opposed and Britain is skeptical.
In Paris, there is no effort to conceal the fact that preparations for the presidency have been derailed by the Ireland vote. The Lisbon Treaty aims to give the EU a more powerful voice on the global stage, creating a full-time president of the council and a more powerful foreign policy chief. France was to preside over the filling of these posts and the setting up of a new European diplomatic service, but this process has been delayed. One other senior French official summed up the priorities in English as the "triple F: France also hopes to increase European defense capabilities and create a new European military planning structure.
Britain, the EU's other main defense power, backs plans to increase capabilities but opposes the establishment of a military headquarters which, it argues, would duplicate NATO's role. Though Britain has gone ahead with the ratification process for the Lisbon Treaty, the Czech Republic has stopped its drive for parliamentary approval. But the Czechs, who will take over the rotating EU presidency in Januarywill face problems when they head the bloc's meetings if they do not proceed with Lisbon, said the senior French official.
Prime Minister Brian Cowen of Ireland is to report to colleagues in October on progress, but French officials appear to accept that he may not be able to make a clear proposal by then, though they believe a solution allowing the Irish to ratify will be found.
Clara O'Donnell, research fellow at the Center for European Reform in London, said that, while the Irish vote would overshadow the French presidency to some extent, other areas of work would not be affected. O'Donnell added that while the French presidency was unlikely to adopt a protectionist and populist tone, there was a greater medium term danger for the EU. When Nicolas Sarkozy options trading entry signals review francois fillon France back into NATO's unified command next year, he will want to celebrate it as a triumph for Europe's own defense identity.
It's a very French spin on a step that more meaningfully signifies that the alliance, so often buried, is alive and kicking, and that Options trading entry signals review francois fillon, 42 years after Charles de Gaulle's decision to pull out of NATO's integrated military structure, thinks there's no more profit in France being seen as a reflex antagonist of the United States on issues like Iran, the Middle East, Russia and China.
The world ought to notice. Even if Sarkozy, out of domestic political considerations, must write his own Franco-French account of his country's new wisdom. On France's options trading entry signals review francois fillon, Sarkozy states a plain truth: In fact, more than anyone might have thought a few months ago, there are contradictions and problems appearing now that, without fundamentally endangering France's reintegration, could turn the process into a slog.
France is going to be very hard-pressed to explain what that European defense identity - which Sarkozy so much wanted to emphasize as the condition for his embrace of NATO - is or can become while the French hold the European Union's agenda-setting presidency for the next six months. New facts can only make it increasingly difficult in practical terms to demonstrate growth in European capabilities, expenditure and resolve. Specifically, Irish voters' rejection of the Lisbon Treaty on EU reorganization disables a measure called "structured permanent cooperation" that would have allowed groups of countries among the 27 members to make advances in terms of their military capacities.
The effect is to remove a vehicle for new hard-power commitments within a Europe long bent on convincing itself soft power was all it needed, and where only two countries Britain and Turkey will actually increase their military budgets next year.
On the one hand, while the United States says it sees eye to eye with the French on developing European defense, the new circumstances can't facilitate options trading entry signals review francois fillon Americans' openly stated expectation "that France will lead an effort" during its presidency to prod Europe into greater investment in greater capabilities. Instead, some Americans now say they don't have a sense of what a refashioned European Defense and Security Policy could produce in real terms.
At the same time, since France cannot point to a Europe committed by treaty options trading entry signals review francois fillon expanded European military capacities, Sarkozy is likely to have a harder time at home fending off his critics from the left and the anti-American Gaullist right wing who cast the return to NATO not as a plus for Europe but as an exchange of French independence for American domination.
According to Pierre Lellouche, a Gaullist who was options trading entry signals review francois fillon in writing Sarkozy's campaign platform on defense, "It's indispensable that Sarkozy present the return in parallel with the development of a European defense identity.
Without it, there's a potential domestic cold options trading entry signals review francois fillon here. Although Europe has talked about generalized 2 percent increases in yearly military expenditures, it appears French spending will be below that target. While the French talk about the necessity of updating Europe's options trading entry signals review francois fillon strategy to deal with new threats around the world, Sarkozy has in fact put off a decision on building a second French aircraft carrier.
It was described by Le Monde as "a very political way of softly laying the project in its grave. France could not have chosen a worse juncture. The old naval truism that one aircraft carrier is no aircraft carrier at all pertains: In Sarkozy's words, "making de Gaulle's principles my own," French atomic arms "will remain strictly options trading entry signals review francois fillon.
As far as European capabilities go, France is talking about the creation of a deployable European force of 60, a year-old plan that has never come close to realization. But it argues simultaneously and contradictorily that there should be a separate European headquarters command in Brussels.
The sum of these complications are of sufficient size that one Brussels estimate figures that work on arrangements involving a Options trading entry signals review francois fillon return will continue beyond options trading entry signals review francois fillon NATO summit meeting scheduled for April and into Still, nothing presupposes issues that would block France's reintegration.
The options trading entry signals review francois fillon is that the French are experiencing some inconsistency in fitting themselves into the NATO mold.